From print media to materials handling

With a long history in the printing industry, Ferag offers a fresh approach to materials handling. MHD sits down with Philip Batty, Managing Director of the company’s Australian arm to find out more.

When it comes to materials handling, the newspaper and printing industry is one of the most challenging and time-critical industries to operate in.

The term “hot off the press” refers to the newspapers coming straight off the production line and straight into the hands of the reader at record speed, hence the newspaper still being warm.

At the printing press, trucks wait eagerly in the early hours of the morning to ensure that the nation has access to its daily news intake. Operating a seamless next-day delivery model before e-commerce and logistics giants like Amazon started to infiltrate the consumer space, the printing industry is logistics at its best.

“When you look hard at the printing industry, it’s materials handling. We take the newspaper from the press and we process it. From here, we either roll it up or stack it and strap it and then we distribute it, all within less than a day,” Philip Batty, Managing Director at Ferag Australia says.

One business that has been at the centre of the global printing industry is Ferag. Founded in 1957 and headquartered in Switzerland, the company is highly regarded as the world leader in the development, manufacture and marketing of postpress processing systems.

The company is represented in more than 18 countries and employs more than 550 people worldwide. Here in Australia, seasoned materials handling specialist Philip Batty has recently joined the company to lead the business in Australia as it expands and moves into the rapidly growing materials handling and intralogistics markets.

“Since 2014 Ferag recognised that there were many synergies between the printing industry and the materials handling industry and as such has begun expanding into this area,” Philip says.

Philip is an experienced logistics professional. He has worked for some of the biggest names in materials handling, including SwissLog and Vandelande. He also previously held the position of the National Service Manager at Ferag Australia from 2005 until 2008.

“During my time at Vandelande I worked on some of the biggest materials handling projects in Australia, including the Australia Post sites in Sydney and Melbourne. I was lucky to have a broad exposure to materials handling and the different systems and solutions in this space,” Philip says.

Synergies across the two industries

Ferag very quickly realised that while the printing industry will always be a major part of its business, it was important to diversify its offering when some of the printing industry started to decline. From here, it made perfect sense to move into the materials handling industry.

“We will never leave the printing industry; we will always be there, and we are committed to our customers in this space. But as the industry started to decline, Ferag has to evolve and the materials handling industry offers great opportunity,” Philip says.

Ferag operates in this space across three different models. Firstly, they partner with the major integrators in this space. Secondly, they work closer with the smaller integrators who may have expertise in control systems or automation but do not have the hardware to support this and finally they operate in a direct to customer relationship working with major logistics providers.

Approaching the industry with a different background and experience than many other materials handling providers has enabled Ferag to come up with some really innovative solutions such as the Denisort, which is a highly flexible tilt-tray sorter and the Skyfall, an overhead conveyor used as a unique pouch sorter.

“The compact version of the Denisort is ideal for a customer who needs to do smaller size sortation. It’s a cost-effective solution that is modular and also moveable, which can be hugely beneficial when you compare this to other sortation solutions that are not modular,” Philip says.

Ideal for say a third-party logistics provider as it can be repurposed to another customer if a contract ends.

Similarly, the idea for the Skyfall overhead conveyor solution came from the newspaper industry and is offering a highly efficient, cost-effective and space saving solution for fashion logistics and e-commerce.

Family-owned and committed to Australia

Ferag is a family-owned business and has been since its inception more than 60 years ago. Philip’s appointment is part of a larger strategy to commit and develop Ferag’s market share in Australia.

Philip is the first Australian MD for Ferag Australia and brings a wealth of local experience to the role. The Australian team also boasts five engineers with more than 140 years of Ferag expertise in their collective experience.

All of Ferag’s equipment is engineered and manufactured in Switzerland and the business prides itself on its quality and commitment to innovation.

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